Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November 30 - Feast of Saint Andrew

 Readings: Romans 10:9-18; Matthew 4:18-22

The first reading for the feast of St Andrew is a short but insightful outline of the role of preaching in God’s saving work. It states that faith comes from hearing but asks ‘how can they hear unless there is a preacher for them?' Though this text could in general terms by applied to all the apostles, and others besides, it is particularly appropriate for St Andrew based on what the New Testament records about him. He had no sooner come to faith in Christ than he proclaimed this to his brother, Peter - "we  have found the Christ” – and he took Simon to Jesus (John 1:40-41). Later he was involved in introducing the Greeks to Jesus, a very significant portent of the later spread of the Gospel beyond the confines of Palestinian Judaism and indeed of Judaism itself (John 12:20-22).

Andrew’s example highlights certain things at the heart of preaching. Being a preacher involves having a conviction of just how important faith in Jesus can be to others. It also means having the love, genuineness, and sensitivity necessary to share the Gospel appropriately with others. It means having the faith to point the other person to Jesus and even to usher them gently into the presence of the living Christ. It also involves realising that Jesus then has to make the crucial difference and leaving space for this direct encounter between others and Jesus.

In these ways St Andrew still serves as a model for all who would preach the Gospel, not least the Order of Preachers itself.

St Andrew, pray for Dominicans and for all preachers that we may have the zeal and love to speak appropriately of Jesus and the Gospel, as well as the expectant faith and prudent patience to trust Jesus to make himself real to people in God’s own timing and way, Amen.


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Monday, November 29, 2010

Austin Milner OP RIP (1935-2010)

Please pray for our brother Austin Milner of the Oxford community who died peacefully at Blackfriars this morning. He was born on 9th August 1935 and made his profession in the Order on 27th September 1954. He was ordained to the priesthood on 30th April 1960. He spent much of his life in the Caribbean, working in Grenada, Jamaica, and Trinidad. For the past few years he was a member of the Oxford community, lecturing and tutoring in sacramental theology and liturgy. The photograph below was taken during the celebrations to mark the golden jubilee of his ordination earlier this year. A full obituary of fr Austin will appear in due course.

Lord, you gave Austin your servant and priest the privilege of a holy ministry in this world.
May he rejoice for ever in the glory of your kingdom.
We ask this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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Nos iunge beatis, 'join us to the blessed'

The salvation of souls (other people's, but also our own) has always been considered the goal of the Order of Preachers. As Dominicans, we must always pray that our preaching may bear fruit, and bring people to see and know Christ: it will never be able to do that, though, if we do not ourselves come to share more deeply in his divine life, that grace of which St Dominic was such an ardent preacher.
Of course, there is a sense in which we can only be joined to the blessed once we die; only then may we be admitted to the fullness of the beatific vision, and, indeed, when we say ‘nos iunge beatis’ we are asking for the assistance of St Dominic’s prayers for our own salvation. However, salvation is not just a one-off event at the moment of death, but rather a process which works itself out from the moment of our baptism, in which we first received God’s sanctifying grace. So we pray that already now in this life we may share something of the fullness of that blessed life which God offers to all mankind through his Son’s saving death in order that, by knowing it more deeply ourselves, we too may be preachers of grace.


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Saturday, November 27, 2010

First Sunday of Advent - Being Ready for the End

Beginnings are an ideal time to think about ends. After all, if we are setting out on something new, we need to know where we are headed. Now the first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of the new liturgical year and as we begin the new year, the Church invites us to think about the future. We look forward to a time when there will no longer be wars, a time of salvation, a time when the Son of Man will come.

The final coming of Christ is something that we can easily lose sight of. Some theologians believe that when Christ talked in apocalyptic terms, he was just using the language of a first century Jew. They argue that Jesus wasn't really talking about the end of the world, but rather he was just emphasising what the demands of Christian discipleship are. That is, we must constantly remain alert. In this realized eschatology, there is no need to focus on the end times, because the end has already happened. Christ has already come and he is with us now.

Of course Christ is truly with us and so we are living in the end times, but if we over-emphasise this realized eschatology, there is a real danger that we will go against what the Church has always taught. Every week in the Creed we proclaim 'He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead ... We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.' This will be a marvelous and miraculous event. It is not something we can deduce by studying the laws of physics. There is no way we can predict when it will happen or what it will be like, but our faith in Christ's resurrection demands that we believe in a general resurrection which will be a corporeal reality. This is something we have to be ready for. A human soul can only be perfected if it is united to a body, so we can't attain our final happiness as immaterial beings or as material beings which are subject to decay. Our faith in Christ means that we really can hope for a true and final happiness with God in which body and soul will be perfectly united.

So how should we be ready? Well, we need to come to terms with what we are. In today's reading, St Paul gives examples of certain types of behaviour which are unbecoming of human beings: reveling and drunkenness, debauchery and licentiousness, quarreling and jealousy. It is not that the Christian life means we can't enjoy ourselves, but rather our true joy cannot consist in these sorts of behaviour. In each of the examples that St Paul gives, there is some kind of contradiction with our true human nature. Getting drunk is damaging to our health and our judgement. Being licentious means our actions are not ordered to their proper end. Quarreling and jealousy undermine the social structures by which we discover who we are.

The big struggle in life is accepting our human nature, living as God intended us to live. We live in a fallen world, a world in which the spiritual is at war with the material, a world in which our souls are out of step with our bodies. We may see our bodies as letting us down, as an obstacle to our perception of reality, as tempting us do things we would rather not do. Yet we may also find ourselves being attracted to this fallen world and giving in to the unreasonable demands we feel our bodies are making of us. St Augustine understood this attraction very well. In book 8 of the Confessions, he writes about the period shortly before his conversion:

The burden of the world weighed me down with a sweet drowsiness such as commonly occurs during sleep. The thoughts with which I meditated about you were like the efforts of those who would like to get up but are overcome by deep sleep and sink back again. No one wants to be asleep all the time, and the sane judgement of everyone judges it better to be awake. Yet often a man defers shaking off sleep when his limbs are heavy with slumber. Although displeased with himself he is glad to take a bit longer, even when the time to get up has arrived.

St Augustine goes on to describe the actual moment of his conversion, how he was in the depths of despair, weeping under a fig tree. At this point he heard the voice of a child from a nearby house repeating over and over again: 'Pick up and read, pick up and read.' He suddenly stopped crying, he hurried to pick up a bible, he opened it and read the first passage on which his eyes fell.

Not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

The passage he read was the passage from St Paul, the one we heard in today's reading. This was the moment of St Augustine's conversion. On reading these words, he describes how at once it was as if a light of relief from all anxiety had flooded into his heart. All the shadows of doubt were dispelled. The story of Augustine's conversion shows the dramatic power of the Word. Christ is with us now and he is our light. He heals our human nature and in him we will find our ultimate happiness.

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Podcasts for Advent

During Advent the Godzdogz Podcast will be accompanying our advent reflections. You will be able to listen at your computer but you are also able to download the podcast and listen to it on your MP3 player at any convenient time. Subscribe for free today and receive a special "O Lumen" Podcast. Just click the snazzy new iTunes logo below.

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Praedicator gratiae, 'preacher of grace'

The title 'praedicator gratiae' can be taken in three senses all of which are realised in the life of Saint Dominic as we know about it from Jordan of Saxony's book on the foundations of the Order and from the canonisation processes.

Grace was often the topic of his preaching - he spoke about it regularly. The close connection for the first Dominicans between preaching and hearing confessions brings it out clearly: the mercy of God, and the forgiveness and reconciliation brought about through the sacrament of penance, all this was the goal of the preaching. In countering Albigensianism he wanted to convince people particularly about the grace of God coming through the sacramental life of the Church.

A second meaning of this phrase is that grace happened when Dominic preached. There are many moments in his life that confirm this: people were converted, people were healed, people felt loved by him. The power of God's grace was 'felt' by many of those to whom Dominic preached and many of those for whom he exercised pastoral care. The key moment of the scattering of the brethren - 'seed stored rots', he said - was one in which he was clearly under the influence of the Holy Spirit. It was, as all saw later, a moment of grace, though at the time many of his brothers and friends thought it unwise to spread out so thinly at such an early stage of the Order's life.

Finally 'preacher of grace' can mean he was an attractive, gracious, preacher. His presence was warm and encouraging in something like the way people spoke about Bede Jarrett - his personality and presence themselves, gifts of nature and rearing, became instruments of the Spirit in his work of bringing people to God. We have from one of the first Sisters of the Order, Cecilia, a physical description of St Dominic, as a handsome and attractive man.

Dominicans are proud of their interest in grace both theologically and pastorally. It is a great privilege to be entrusted with the responsibility of preaching this good news, that God is love, and that towards us God's love is always gracious, merciful and steadfast.


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Friday, November 26, 2010

Film Review: The Social Network

Facebook is certainly one of the main social and cultural markers of the early twenty-first century. It is therefore no surprise that its creation and turbulent early expansion have been adapted for the big screen. Penned by Aaron Sorkin, of West Wing and A Few Good Men fame, the film charts Harvard Student Mark Zuckerberg's creation of Facebook and the backdraft of hedonism, litigation and broken friendship that followed, in a medley of fast-paced  and memorable dialogue.

After a painful break-up Mark Zuckerberg, our computer-science major protagonist, drunkenly decides to create a website to rate the attractiveness of female Harvard undergraduates. After a heavy hacking session Facemash is created and within days part of the Harvard network collapses due to the web-traffic. This stunt brings the wrath of the university authorities but also attracts the attention of the members of the elite final club members, the Winklevoss twins. They commission the young computer science  major to programme HarvardMatch, an Ivy League dating site. This inspires Zuckerberg to create TheFacebook. The rest of course is history.

The film has been described as "inaccurate" by most of the people portrayed but nevertheless it is a fascinating movie that paints an intriguing picture of Harvard life and the rigid social-system that exists within it. What is rather striking is the emphasis on these social networks that exist as hierarchical and empty communities. Jesse Eisenberg's Zuckenberg is obsessed with being part of, on top of, and controlling the  shell of this society. If anything, the empty friendship of Facebook demonstrates Aristotle's observation that "it is not possible for anyone to have many real friends". It really spotlights one of the major problems in western society: the death of the traditional community.

The Pope during his visit to Spain described the Church as "the embrace of God". He went on to describe the Church as a true social network, "in which men and women learn also to embrace their brothers and sisters and to discover in them the divine image and likeness which constitutes the deepest truth of their existence, and which is the origin of genuine freedom". This social network found within the Church is a truly living and real society.

The Social Network is a thoroughly entertaining and stimulating film. It really captures the Harvard scene and the exciting but turbulent, cut-throat nature of the internet world. It also asks some very pertinent questions, such as: is popularity the key to happiness? And what does it mean to be friends?. It seems almost poetic that many of the problems emphasised by the rise of Facebook, are observed in its creation and early growth. One is forced to ask how far does the virtual world devalue the real world.



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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ordination in Cork

On the Feast of Christ the King, former Godzdogz contributor David Barrins OP was ordained to the priesthoood by the Bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr John Buckley.

The ordination took place in the beautiful priory church of Saint Mary's, Pope's Quay, Cork.

David's ordination has received some attention in the Irish press and he was interviewed by RTE the following day.

You can find more pictures and the press-coverage on the Irish Dominicans Vocations site.

Please keep fr. David in your prayers.


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No Longer Pups

Godzdogz is currently marking a number of important milestones.

We recently celebrated our 4th birthday. The first post was published on 7 November 2006. It announced the arrival of Godzdogz and explained a bit about its name and its purpose: read it again here.

We are just two short of our 1,000th post which will be published probably in the first week of Advent: we will let you know which one it is.

We also recently welcomed our 500,000th unique visitor. At present about 1,000 people a day visit Godzdogz. One of the most fascinating things about our visitors is their diversity and spread. We have visitors from every continent and it is especially heartening to see visitors from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and The People's Republic of China.

Many interesting comments and questions have been sent to us. Only a few comments have ever been rejected for publication, for reasons which we imagine most people would understand.

Twenty six Dominicans have at one time or another been part of the Godzdogz team (only fr Vivian Boland and fr Lawrence Lew remain of the original 2006-07 team) and we have been pleased to publish contributions by Dominican brothers and sisters, and others, from different parts of the world. The blog has expanded into the realms of YouTube, social-networking, and podcasting.

We thank you for your support, comments, encouragement, and prayers, and we hope that you will continue to be with us in our mission on the “new digital continent.”

During Advent, Fr Vivian Boland the master of students and editor of the blog, will offer Mass for the intentions of all who visit Godzdogz.


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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Propinasti Gratis "You Freely Poured Forth"

It has always been difficult to define or categorise Dominican spirituality. It is not rooted on a single type of prayer or spiritual exercise. However, I think it is fair to say that the heart of Dominican spirituality is in what we are called and compelled to do, to preach. We are an order of preachers founded to proclaim the Gospel. Preaching the truth however is not something that we own or create ourselves. We are sharing in the mission of the Incarnate Word and the charismatic grace of preaching is fuelled and powered by the Holy Spirit. Fr. Simon Tugwell OP uses the image of a water pipe to demonstrate this idea to great effect. A water pipe can only give water if it is receiving water from a source. Conversely it can only receive water if it is allowing water to flow from it.

It is not enough to hope that God fills us with spiritual gifts and that at some point we will be full enough to “overflow” to others. When St Dominic began dispersing brothers (even novices) throughout Europe in the early days of the Order, many observers were puzzled. Dominic  disarmed their scepticism by pointing out that “hoarded grain goes bad”. Likewise stored water will eventually become foul. We have to be willing to share truth with others and we can do so in the confidence that the Lord is always with us and that in him we have a “full and deep well” to provide for us.


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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Edmund Hill OP (23 July 1923 - 11 November 2010)

The following obituary is by fr Emil Blaser OP, of the Order's general vicariate in South Africa

Fr Edmund Hill OP, a member of the English Dominican Province, died on 11 November 2010 in Cambridge, England, at the age of 87 after suffering a severe stroke some months ago.

Edmund Hill joined the Dominican Order in 1948 and was professed on 24 September 1949. He was amongst a crop of exceptionally brilliant friars. After his ordination in 19 September1954, Edmund did a stint of lecturing in England until 1966 when he was sent to Stellenbosch, South Africa, travelling by boat. It was during this boat trip that he learnt that he had been elected prior of St Nicholas’ Priory in Stellenbosch. He was warmly welcomed and distinguished himself as a caring and compassionate priest. He taught mainly scripture. While being a rigorous student, his humanity shone through in his relations with people. He never bore grudges and was always someone with a cheerful heart. He had the gift of making people feel relaxed.

Edmund was a renowned scripture scholar and distinguished English gentleman. He would lecture in Scripture, translating the New Testament from the original Greek into impeccable English. Earlier in his life he was a pipe smoker and even this he did with refinement.

He was an outspoken critic of the apartheid government and in 1973, while on sabbatical in England, he received news that he had been declared a prohibited immigrant in South Africa. This did not deter him. He loved Africa and would return. And so in 1974 he was sent to Lesotho where he taught dogmatic theology and scripture at St Augustine’s Seminary in Roma. He was loved by his students. When his contract came to an end he took up residence in the Dominican House in Maseru where he was superior for many years and continued to contribute to the academic world of Lesotho.

His most outstanding contribution in the academic world was his interest in St Augustine. He translated many his works from the original Latin and wrote about him. He had an incredible knowledge of classical languages. His outstanding translations were of St Augustine’s “De Trinitate” and many of his sermons.

Edmund was somewhat of a Luddite! For many years he did all his writing on a small typewriter. It was only later when his publishers wanted his material on computer that he was given a computer and entered this new world. Be that as it may, he never got round to using email – only fax. He often joked about this.

In 1991 he took another sabbatical and asked to go to Papua New Guinea where he spent a year teaching in the seminary and came back with loads of stories. He returned to Lesotho and continued teaching there until 1991 when he made the big decision to return to England by boat. He retired to Cambridge where he was loved by his community and the townspeople.

An example of the sharpness of his intellect is seen from an article he wrote about women in the life of Augustine. He wrote: “Augustine, as a man of his age, exhibits uncriticized assumptions about the social inferiority and subordination of women that are not acceptable today, and can indeed be seen to be at variance with the basic insights of the gospel. They were not, however, so seen either by him or by his contemporaries, including (as far as we can tell) the women. But as a humane man and a Christian, Augustine treated women with honour and respect, had many women friends and admirers—a whole long treatise on prayer is addressed to a Roman lady called Proba—and publicly confessed and repented of his failures in this regard as a young man. It is, to be sure, an anachronism to say so; but I will say it all the same: Augustine's attitude towards women was that of a courteous gentleman, of a "parfit, gentle knight".

May he rest in peace after a very fulfilling life. It was a privilege to have known him and even more so to have been taught by him.


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Fr. Donald Proudman OP (1913-1970)

Born in Shropshire on 10th August 1913, Fr. Donald grew up in Preston where he was educated by the Jesuits. He joined the Dominicans aged 18 in 1931, was professed a year later and ordained a priest in 1937.

After the completion of his studies Fr Donald was assigned to St Dominic's Priory in London which would be his home for the greater part of his life. Fr Donald became well known during this period for his preaching and would join the famous Vincent McNabb OP in his discourses and debates at Hyde Park and on Hampstead Heath. On a brief spell away from London he was involved in the foundation of Spode House, the Dominican conference and retreat centre that would play such an influential role in English Catholic life in the middle of the twentieth century. Later he spent one year in Barbados helping with the refurbishment of the Cathedral.

Fr Donald found the changes to Dominican life and liturgy after the Second Vatican Council difficult to stomach, but did nothing to obstruct them. He was respected and admired by his younger, more radical, brethren for his compassion and kindness. He died after a short illness in April 1970 aged 56, twenty four hours after returning from a pilgrimage to Lourdes.

Eternal rest grant to him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. 
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.


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Monday, November 22, 2010

Homily for St Cecilia's Day

This is a homily for St Cecilia's Day by our deacon, fr. Lawrence Lew OP, who is also house cantor at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Apocalypse 14:1-3. 4b-5; Psalm 24; Luke 21:1-4

Christ with St Cecilia & St PaulThe legendary Acts of Saint Cecilia say that on her wedding day this Roman virgin saint “sang in her heart” to God alone. And in 1584, when the Academy of Church Music was founded in Rome, they chose her as their patron, and so she became more popularly regarded as the patron saint of musicians.

Given the close association of music and singing with St Cecilia, the first reading is especially apt. St John presents us with a vision of heaven, and a choir made up of all those redeemed by Christ. And they are all musicians: playing on harps and singing. And they sing a new song which only they - the redeemed - can learn to sing. But as I was reading this, I wondered what the old song was.

The Book of Revelation often alludes to Genesis, and so we can think of creation as God’s song, and the Holy Trinity as the divine musician. The Father is the origin of the song. If you like, he knows the tune. But without words, and without breath to produce the sound, it is not a song. And so, when the Father sings, then by his Word, and with his Breath, which both proceed from him, the song of creation is being sung and sustained in being. So, the old song, if you like, is creation itself, and by his divine act of singing, God causes all that is, and holds everything in being. Marvel at the wonder of the world around you, and indeed, at your own being. For all creation, by its very existence, tells the glory of God … like a glorious symphony, and in perfect polyphony.

But then, God’s Word itself takes part in this symphony of creation. As Pope Benedict said in his recent apostolic exhortation, Verbum Domini, “In this symphony is found, at a certain point, what might be called in musical terminology a ‘solo’, a theme given to a single instrument or voice; and it is so important that the significance of the entire work depends on it. This ‘solo’ is Jesus”. The entry of Christ into God's creation, heralds a fresh outburst of song. We find that the New Testament begins and ends with song, from the canticles in Luke’s Gospel to the canticles of the Apocalypse, and all these songs form a central part in the Church’s liturgy; we sing them everyday. And in a sense, these are the new songs based, if you like, on the musical theme introduced by Christ into the symphony.

The Elders of HeavenBut I think Christ not only adds his voice to the song of creation and becomes a part of it, but actually he introduces a new song. Indeed, the eternal Word has taken on the flesh of music, so to speak, and as St Clement of Alexandria said, Christ has become incarnate as the New Song. St John says that “no lie was found” in the mouths of those who sing the new song. And this is because the song they sing is Christ who is the Truth. And the new song of Christ is greater than the old song of creation because the singer and the song is God himself. And so, when we are called as Christians - children of the new creation - to sing a new song, we are being invited to rejoice and participate in the life and being of God himself.

So, to sing the new song means to harmonize our lives with Christ; to live the life of grace in Christ. Jesus is the new song that we, the redeemed, can learn to sing, and we are able to do this when we have him in our minds and in our hearts, as St Cecilia did. But to sustain this song we need the breath of the Holy Spirit, allowing ourselves to be filled with God’s grace. And then, as we do every morning, we simply ask the Lord to open our lips, so that, with our very lives, we can praise his name, and sing his new song.


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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Requiem Mass in Woodchester

On 18 November 2010, five brothers from Oxford, including the Prior, fr. John O'Connor OP, visited Woodchester, which is near Stroud in Gloucestershire. Still called Woodchester Priory, from 1853 to 1967 this was home to the novitiate of the English Dominicans, apart from a period during the wars. Many Dominican friars are buried around its church, which is dedicated to the Annunication. Among those buried there is fr. Bede Jarrett OP who founded the Oxford priory. Hence, we had returned to Woodchester to pray for our deceased brethren buried there, and also to offer Mass for all the dead of the parish.

We were warmly welcomed by the parish priest, Fr Bill Watson, and by a group of parishioners. Also present were the Stone sisters from St Rose's School in nearby Stroud. After the Requiem Mass, the Prior blessed the graves as a Litany of Dominican saints was sung, and then after some prayers, we processed to the Lady Chapel singing the Dominican 'Salve Regina'.

Afterwards, we were treated to a delicious meal in the hall of St Dominic's Primary School, looked at old photographs, and listened to stories about the Dominican novitiate. This was a very special evening indeed: we re-established a connection with our past, and prayed for our dead, but we also had the joy of meeting people whose lives had been touched by our brothers in some way, who benefited from our legacy, and who are now part of a still vibrant Catholic parish community in Woodchester.


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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Aquam Sapientiae

The words ‘water of life’ do not refer primarily to Dominic himself but are part of a bigger phrase ‘You freely poured forth [literally ‘passed on the cup of’] the water of wisdom’. But Dominic could not pass on what he had not first received.

For me, ‘water of wisdom’ firstly calls to mind these words from St John’s gospel. ‘On the last day, the great day of the festival, Jesus stood and cried out: Let anyone who is thirsty come to me! Let anyone who believes in me come and drink! As Scripture says, “From his heart shall flow streams of living water.” He was speaking of the Spirit which those who believed in him were to receive. (John 7:37-39a). Like water, the Spirit gives life and refreshes: it is flowing and moving, alive and bringing life and energy, cleansing and fulfilling our needs. The gift of wisdom, that ability to see how God is at work in situations and to bring one’s own life and decisions into line with this, was seen as the highest of the gifts of the Spirit.

Dominic is thus presented as being wonderfully full of the Holy Spirit and his life was seen as one marked with the qualities and gifts (see Isaiah 11:2-3 and also 1 Corinthians 12:7-11) and fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). His wisdom did not come mainly from books, though he was a conscientious scholar, but from a deep desire for God and from humbly asking in faith for the Holy Spirit and his gifts. This caught up and placed all his knowledge and energies at the service of God. He was generous in sharing what he had received with others, and became a vessel of the Spirit through which the Spirit was able to change the lives of others.

Let us too humbly ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and with wisdom, and to be the Holy Spirit’s vessels in touching and filling others with God’s life.


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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ebur Castitatis - 'Ivory of Chastity'

At the translation of the relics of St. Dominic, we are told that the air was filled with the odour of sanctity. Indeed, this manifestation of St. Dominic’s holiness was certainly due, in no small part, to that purity of body and soul with which he lived his remarkable life. Chastity, from the Latin root of the adjective castus meaning pure, was a virtue highly prized by St. Dominic, and in his final discourses, he placed considerable stress upon the cultivation of this virtue. It is recorded that he told those brothers present toward his death, of the ‘jealous esteem’ in which he always held the virtue of purity, and admitted to them that he had received the grace of perfect virginity of body and soul. Then, rather unexpectedly, he added that nevertheless he was ‘no stranger to the charm of youth in women’. We can take this final statement as, perhaps, a sign of humility from St. Dominic or even perhaps a show of humour, but it runs much deeper than these surface impressions. Out of this display of candour shines a rare simplicity of being, a simplicity that allowed the grace of purity to take such firm root in his soul. He believed, as we should, that we must strive to be pure as God is pure.

Chastity in religious life is, all too often, viewed as a form of renunciation rather than a form of holy consecration; something to be mourned or pitied rather than celebrated. Such a viewpoint couldn’t be more mistaken. Referring to St. Dominic’s wishes, St. Catherine of Siena, in her Dialogue, points out that purity is an indispensable condition for carrying out the purpose of the Order: “Since impure living obscures the eye of the intellect, and not only the eye of the intellect, but also of the body, he does not wish them to obscure their physical light, with which they may more perfectly obtain the light of science; wherefore he imposed on them the third vow of continence, and wishes that all should observe it with true and perfect obedience.”

In the Dominican form of profession, the vow of chastity is not explicitly mentioned, but is fully embodied by the vow of obedience. Indeed, our obedience, firstly to our superiors and ultimately to the will of God, allows us the means to flourish and cultivate the virtue of chastity. But this is not easy and we must pray for the gift of perseverance. Indeed, from St. Dominic himself we have another promise of a special blessing on perseverance in this regard: “The spotlessness of your lives will ensure you great triumphs among men.” In these good works and in living aright before God we can hope to draw ever closer to Him, and by the example of our Holy Father St Dominic, we can hope to be united with Him in the heavenly kingdom.


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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wilfrid Ardagh O.P. (1896-1980)

William Ardagh, who was born in Birmingham on 7 December 1896, entered the Dominican novitiate in Woodchester at the age of sixteen, receiving as his religious name Wilfrid: he made his profession a year later on 21 September 1913. Such was his youth that he had to wait seven years (rather than the usual  five) after profession before being ordained to the priesthoood soon after his 24th birthday (the earliest someone can be ordained priest) on 18 December 1920.
Having pursued higher studies in Fribourg, he returned to England to teach in Hawkesyard, moving to Oxford when the Studium there opened in 1929. After a four year spell in the Dominicans’ new house of studies in Stellenbosch (South Africa), he came back to Britain in 1936, going to St Dominic’s Priory in Newcastle (pictured left) where he was elected prior in 1941. Having served his term as prior, he was then elected to fulfil the same function in Leicester, after which he was able to return to teaching, this time in London, giving University of London extension lectures in theology and moral philosophy.

Ten years later, in 1958, he was sent out to the English Dominican vicariate in the West Indies to be parish priest at Bridgetown (Barbados), before travelling across the Atlantic again in 1961 back to Stellenbosch (pictured right) for a second spell of teaching there until his retirement in 1969. He then returned to England, living first in Cambridge before moving to Oxford in 1972. After a varied and fruitful apostolate, both pastoral and academic, in the course of over 50 years already spent in the Order, he found the changes brought in the wake of the Second Vatican Council at the end of his life difficult to get used to.

In his last months, he was nursed by the Sisters of Peace, and he died on 22 September 1980, aged 83, with 66 years of profession and 59 of priesthood.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace. Amen.


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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Remember... we have Family in Iraq!

Dominican life in Mesopotamia traces its beginnings back to the earliest days of the Order, to 1235 when three Dominican friars journeyed to Baghdad, "a brilliant center of culture and study where Dominic had once dreamed of opening a mission". Today, the Order has seventeen Iraqi brothers and over two hundred apostolic sisters. The friars had a convent in Mosul which was transferred to Karakosh because of anti-Christian violence in Mosul, and they have one house in Baghdad. What is life like for our brothers and sisters? Some reports can be found here and here.

This month has seen a terrible onslaught of attacks by Islamic terrorists against Christians in Iraq. A news report that summarises the events so far is below:

As we celebrated All Saints day recently, a feast which used to celebrate all the martyrs of the Church, our fellow Catholics were being martyred in their church in Baghdad as they gathered for Sunday Mass. The BBC reported the news here, and there was an excellent news report here, and elsewhere, but it was not prominent. So, people whom I met that Monday, 1 November, said they had not heard anything about this massacre.

This shocking incident was condemned by the Holy Father, and the Order of Preachers issued a statement through their UN delegation. An excellent source of world news, indeed, is the website of the Order's UN Delegation, as well as its Facebook page.

Al-Qaida then issued threats against all Christians in Iraq. Calls came from local Church leaders for Christians to leave Iraq. Despite this, the Syrian Catholics gathered again for Mass in the very church where the massacre of 31 October took place, and they prayed for those who died in that attack including two priests and three deacons. On Wednesday 10 November, the terrorists responded by targeting six Christian areas in Baghdad, and specifically attacked the homes of those families who were already affected by the 31 October killings. They identified them by the funerary signs hanging outside the homes, as this report says.

Again, this news was not prominently reported, and Christian friends of mine said they had been unaware of what was happening in Iraq until they noticed the articles and videos I posted on my Facebook page. So, I hope that this Godzdogz post will contribute to raising awareness about the persecution of Christians in Iraq. And they are by no means the only community suffering for their faith today.

In November we remember the dead, but let us also remember the living: our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted. Let us pray for them, stand in solidarity with our fellow Christians, and do whatever we can to advance justice, peace, and concrete solutions in the Middle East, and throughout the world. As Pope Benedict XVI said:" Peace, which is a gift of God, is also the result of the efforts of men of goodwill, of the national and international institutions, in particular of the states most involved in the search for a solution to conflicts. We must never resign ourselves to the absence of peace. Peace is possible. Peace is urgent. Peace is the indispensable condition for a life worthy of humanity and society. Peace is also the best remedy to avoid emigration from the Middle East".

May all the holy martyrs of God pray for us!

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rosa Patientiae

Patience is the first characteristic of love (1 Corinthians 13:4) and it is a key marker of sanctity - 'he had the patience of a saint' is a very familiar phrase. Patience is not about being submissive, or being able to wait a long time, but it is the virtue of being able to suffer evil for the sake of what is truly good. So we can see why the rose is such an appropriate symbol of patience. The rose is primarily a symbol of love. Even though a rose has thorns, these don't detract from its beauty. In fact the thorns are necessary for this beauty to flourish. In 2 Corinthians, St Paul speaks of the thorn in his flesh and how the Lord spoke to him: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 'for the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, and calamities.' The meaning of patience is summed up in Fr. Vincent McNabb's short poem, Rosa Patientiae:

The rose’s hue and scent
        Are meant,
By Him who made the rose, to adorn
        A thorn.
And thus, when sorrow irks,
        Who shirks
Forgets to count the gain
      Of pain-
Nor, joy-benighted, knows
        The rose.


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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Dealing with Monkey Business

During his life St. Dominic had many encounters with the devil. Sometimes Satan would appear in diabolic form. Far more often he took other forms such as a wolf, a woman, and even once in the guise of a Friar. On one occasion our Holy Father was studying the scriptures late at night in the Church whilst holding a candle. The devil appeared in the form of a monkey and tried to distract him. St. Dominic grabbed his tormentor and commanded him, in the name of Christ, to hold his candle. He then returned to his studies. He dismissed his simian-shaped assailant after the candle had burned down to his hands.

Often we are also distracted from prayer or sacred study. Sometimes through a wandering mind, disturbing thoughts, or just a feeling of spiritual dryness. Often this is the evil one assaulting us. There is nothing that torments the devil more than people drawing closer to God. When we have these struggles we need to keep our focus on God and persevere.   We must of course ask for God aid in these struggles as we have nothing to fear because we are Christ's and if we keep our faith in him there is no monkey we cannot throw off our backs.


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Friday, November 12, 2010

Irish Dominicans Discuss the Pope's Letter to Seminarians

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Edmund Hill OP RIP (1923-2010)

Please pray for Edmund Hill OP, our brother, who died this morning in Cambridge.

Lord, hear the prayers we offer for Edmund your servant and priest. He faithfully fulfilled his ministry  to your name. May he rejoice for ever in the fellowship of your saints. We ask this through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.


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Vocations Video

Another wonderful video from the Dominican Nuns of Summit in New Jersey.

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Death’s not so dusty

The following is a meditation by Fr Gregory Murphy OP, onetime Godzdogz contributor, now working on the parish of St Dominic's, London where he edits the weekly parish newsletter. Photographs record the visit of friars from the London community to the graves of the brethren buried at Kensal Green Cemetery.

Appropriately enough at this time of the year, we find ourselves dwelling on death, and not just because of the alarm waking us to dark, dank mornings. In the Church calendar this is the month in which we pray especially for the Holy Souls; and we’ve celebrated last week All Saints and All Souls, echoed this week by the same feasts in the Dominican calendar – for all the saints of the Order of Preachers, and the Commemoration of our deceased brothers and sisters (more out of specific gratitude than general insecurity, I think). The secular calendar for once keeps time with us, with the ceremonies of Remembrance Sunday linked to the 11th November, the day the armistice was signed which ended the First World War, when we remember all those who have fallen in war and conflicts, combatants or not. All this can seem bleak. We might find ourselves prone to a sense of futility, even despair, as Shakespeare’s Macbeth finding life to be ‘the way to dusty death’; as Schubert’s winter traveller, in the first song of Winterreise, realising that he ‘… cannot choose the time/For my journey;/I must find my own way/In this darkness’; for we too will die. But we should not grieve over our deaths, or for those we know who have died, Paul insists (1 Thess. 4: 13), as others do who have no hope. For our hope is founded on the risen Christ.

This side of two thousand-odd years of well-intended pious platitudes it can be difficult for us to appreciate just how audacious that hope is. After all, the ancient world’s take on life after death ranged from our being remembered by our successors through being (more subjectively) ineffectual ghosts haunting a gray netherworld (Hades, Sheol) to sleeping the long night on and on – hardly that much to hope for. Yet we can read the Old Testament as foreshadowing Christ’s resurrection. Many texts wrestle with how the wicked seem to prosper and the just suffer; but the hope for vindication by God remained. For example, in the Wisdom literature, Job – a fictional character who embodies the problem of innocent suffering – asserts his hope in ultimate vindication by God: ‘For I know that my Redeemer lives, and in the last day I shall rise out of the earth … and in my flesh I shall see my God'. Throughout the long years of the Covenant God's people had become convinced of his justice, his love and care for the poor and oppressed. In his love he often showed mercy, going beyond justice and forgiving sins - but he would not be unjust, would not fail to vindicate his friends. From this slowly-dawning conviction of God’s faithfulness comes the hope that God’s love extends beyond this life – for all life is God’s gift, and God will raise his friends to new life. We can see that hope expressed in the story of the torture of the Maccabees by the pagan Greeks and in the psalms.

So some of the Jews, when God came among them as Jesus, had some concept of a life beyond this present one, of life with God. Others, like the Sadducees, did not. Josephus tells us Sadducees were urban aristocrats, conservative in their beliefs (they accepted only the first five books of the Jewish scriptures, the Torah, not the Prophets or Wisdom writings or late works like the books of the Maccabees). Their query to Jesus about the woman married to seven brothers is no genuine seeking of knowledge, since it assumes what in fact they explicitly deny, life after death. Jesus makes a case for the resurrection based on the account of Moses’ experience at the burning bush. The declaration that ‘I am the God’ of patriarchs who have died means that in some sense they still live; ‘for to him all of them are alive’. The proof of resurrection, then, is the living God. Resurrection is our standing in the sight of God, being part of God’s life, God’s future, but this is not merely an extension of our present existence, it involves a radical change. Resurrection entails transformation: our transformation into members of the Body of Christ, dying with him so that we can be raised with him. And that transformation begins now, as we begin to live in the Spirit of God, in justice, faithfulness and hope.


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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cyril Hilary Anderson O.P.(1920-1990)

Born on the 3rd December 1920 in Peckham Rye, Cyril Anderson felt called to the religious life from an early age. He was a postulant with the Carthusians at Parkminster but felt that his vocation was not within the monastery. He trained as an electrical engineer but still felt called to the religious life.

In 1939 he received the Dominican habit at Hawkesyard and made profession the following September. He would spend seven years at Hawkesyard during which he re-wired nearly the whole priory. His skills as an electrician would be displayed throughout his life and he would also re-wire the whole of Blackfriars Hall in London.

He moved to Woodchester in 1947 where he acted as school manager for ten years. He also taught music briefly at Llanarth but he returned to Hawkesyard in 1969 where he remain for another nine years. He had suffered from ill-health throughout his life due to a heart problem but his health deteriorated rapidly after he moved to Leicester in 1988 and he died in 1990, aged 69, with 49 years of profession.

Cyril was a quiet and self-effacing brother who was known for his gentleness, kindness and helpfulness. His life demonstrates the full and fruitful ministry of a co-operator brother. His skill as an electrician and his talent as an educator were great gifts to the province. He was also an accomplished musician and played the organ at both Hawkesyard and Woodchester.

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God,
rest in peace,



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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Doctor Veritatis

Teacher of Truth

Recently we had a vocations open day at Blackfriars Oxford, a chance for those pondering religious life to have a look at a Dominican house and chat to some of the brothers about the Order, our life, and our mission. I was struck over the course of the day by how often I was asked the question - each time expressed in a slightly different way - what is Dominican spirituality?

This can be something of a tricky question for Dominicans to answer because the systematic methods or techniques of mental prayer that have become synonymous with 'spirituality' emerged centuries after the Order's foundation. Indeed, an elderly friar once told me that he didn't believe in 'spirituality', but he believed in the Holy Spirit, his point being that for Dominicans, a spiritual life is one that is guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit in all its aspects and dimensions. St. Dominic bequeathed us a way of life and a mission, not a methodology. Yet if this tradition is to lead both those that hear us preach and the brothers themselves to God, it must be founded on the one true God. That is, it must be founded on Truth. Hence Veritas - truth- is the motto of the Order of Preachers.

Both the Old and New Testaments witness to the immense danger of individuals, communities and societies founding their lives on falsity, the danger of founding our lives on what is not God. When we make the pursuit of created or human things our purpose we turn these created things into idols, false gods. These idols inevitably stifle our humanity, trapping us in ideas and practices that inhibit our flourishing. Christ promises that the truth will set us free (John 8: 32). As Dominicans, then, our prayer, our common life, our study, and our preaching should be orientated towards exposing these idols that enslave humanity and, like St. Dominic, preaching instead the one true God who has revealed his great love for us in Christ Jesus. A life founded on Christ is a life founded on love, a love that is true, a love more powerful than death.


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Monday, November 08, 2010

Praying for our deceased brethren

On 8 November, the Dominicans commemorate our deceased brothers and sisters in the Order, those who, having completed the tasks of this life, have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. This year, the friars from Oxford visited Wolvercote cemetery where they prayed and blessed the graves of their brothers buried there.

The following is a reading from the Dominican Proper, which may be read on this day during Matins. It is by fr. Pierre André Liégé OP:

"Our faith in the sacrifice and death of Christ proclaims this event as the fountain and gate of all things which, in our life, take the form of sacrifice and renunciation. For does not the Living God, through the cross of Jesus, reveal a God who turns death, as well as the other evils and calamities in our life, into a living hope? Did not Jesus in his own sacrifice fully restore the relationships of humanity to God by accepting the ultimate spiritual agony?

To die together with Christ is to be bound over to the following of him, eagerly persisting in this very hope and in spiritual combat. Indeed, through spiritual combat we are freed together with Christ when for the love of God and of one another we expend ourselves, no matter what the cost, in opposing whatever falsehood or injustice, danger or violence, hatred or the plotting of the powerful, or fear that may stand in the way. In hope, however, we are bound over to Christ when from the depths of our death, or of our own hopelessness of weaknesses, or of the unbelief or hopelessness of others — all those things utterly blameworthy in our life — we entrust ourselves completely to the care of the Living God."

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Saturday, November 06, 2010

Dominican Bishop Wins International Human Rights Prize

José Raúl Vera López O.P., Bishop of Saltillo, Mexico, has been awarded the 2010 Rafto Prize for his defence of human rights and social justice.

He has been an uncompromising critic of power abuse and a fearless defender of migrants, indigenous peoples, and other groups at risk in Mexican society. He has also bravely spoken out against the powerful drug cartels, who wield much power in his diocese, which borders the United States.

He has been a constant defender of those on the fringes of Mexican society and critic of those in the military, police and government who abuse their authority.

More information about Bishop Lopez and the Rafto Prize can be found here


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Friday, November 05, 2010

O lumen Ecclesiæ

St Dominic is frequently depicted with a star around his forehead, because his mother, Blessed Juana de Aza saw this appear during his baptism. This legend is corroborated with this description of the saint by Blessed Cecilia of Rome: “From his forehead and between his eyebrows a radiant light shone forth, which drew everyone to revere and love him”. Hence, the antiphon to St Dominic begins by referring to him as lumen Ecclesiæ, ‘light of the Church’, and this description says something about St Dominic, and his Order.

Light is something that we seldom notice when it is present; we just take it for granted that it ought to be there, whether as natural sunlight, or with the flick of a switch. As something intrinsically good, like truth, or goodness, or beauty, we feel light’s absence more than its presence. Light is necessary for our well-being, and serves our greater good. Light enters a building through its windows, so each window panel is sometimes called a light. When the light shines through the windows of a church, it gives form, colour, and life to the images of Christ, the saints, and the angels. Thus they become present to us, and so the light may be said to preach.

But notice the humility of the light. It doesn’t draw attention to itself, but serves others’ needs, makes their lives better, and ultimately, proclaims the truth and goodness of God, the one true Light. Hence, St Dominic, this most humble of great saints, left us a mission of preaching and the salvation of souls rather than any personal Rule, or writings, or personality cult. His sole aim was to shine a light on the Faith by assiduous preaching, and an apostolic way of life, and to allow the light of God’s truth to illumine our lives through study and contemplation, so that we might see better, and thus, live more abundantly. And he did this from his beginnings as a cathedral canon at Osma from within the Church and her structures. Thus he founded a clerical Order, and he is truly called a light of the Church.

Inspired by him, let us also be a light to those around us, for it is “better to shine a light than to curse the darkness”.


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Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Antiphon 'O Lumen'

From the 14th century it was a custom in the Order to sing the Magnificat Antiphon for the Feast of St Dominic after the Salve Regina at the end of Compline every day. This antiphon, O Lumen Ecclesiae, will form the subject of a series of meditations beginning tomorrow. Here is the full text:

The usual English translation is as follows:

O light of the church, teacher of truth,
rose of patience, ivory of chastity,
You freely poured forth the waters of wisdom,
preacher of grace unite us with the blessed.

In Eastertide the antiphon ends with Alleluia. We hope you enjoy this series of posts which will be published during the month of November. Here is a recording of the community at Blackfriars, Oxford, singing the O Lumen:


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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Francis Xavier Corr O.P. (1912-2000)

I first visited Grenada in April 1982 along with another Irish Dominican. We were both stationed in Trinidad & Tobago at the time and took a post-Easter break with the brethren of the English province. Fr Francis Xavier Corr was then living at the Cathedral in St George's and took care of us with a kindness and generosity that I have never forgotten. Grenada was a Marxist country at the time, governed by Maurice Bishop. People joked that there were three Bishops on the island: the prime minister, the actual Bishop,  Sydney Charles, and a formidable Irish nun whose nickname was 'the Bishop'!

Fr Francis joined the Order in 1932 and was ordained a priest in 1938. His official obituary records that he suffered a nervous breakdown almost immediately after his ordination and was slowly nursed back to health at a therapeutic community, Templewood, whose regime now seems very enlightened for its time. He went to Newcastle in 1948 and in 1954 was asked by the provincial to go to Grenada.  He was very keen to do this and was to spend the rest of his life in the Caribbean. He served first at the Cathedral (pictured, still ruined after Hurricane Ivan in 2004) and then on Carriacou. This is a beautiful but at the time a very poor island whose main industries were fishing, making rum, and smuggling. Fr Francis preached outside the Adventist chapels in an effort to prevent his flock drifting away from the Church. He was strikingly simple, even austere, in his lifestyle but was always available to the people, traveling immediately to other islands when he heard that there was someone in need of the sacraments.

He moved back to the mainland in 1966 serving in Gouyave and then as prior of the novitiate house at Mount St Ervan's. He later served other parishes on the island, was at the Cathedral in the early 1980s, but when he became frail moved to the priory in Roxborough where the brethren cared devotedly for him. Fr Francis was a man of great piety and devotion, and was completely dedicated to the care of the people. Many people who knew him regarded him as a saint.  'About him', says his obituary, 'there was an innate courtesy, a mischievous sense of humour, and a quiet gratitude ...'.

I think it may have been that mischievous sense of humour that told us about the three Bishops in Grenada. He drove me and my confrere to various parts of the island and treated us to dinner in the Red Crab Restaurant, the place where not long afterwards a coup against Maurice Bishop was plotted. The unrest that followed this coup led to the American invasion of Grenada in October 1983. One moment of dry humour I remember very well. We were driving up a hill along which had been erected a series of large Socialist-era posters. The first said: 'Not a year without increased productivity'. The second said: 'Not a month without the revolution'. The third said: 'Not a day without the struggle'. Fr Francis commented: 'well the third one is true'.

Francis Xavier Corr died on 28 September 2000 at the age of 88.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.


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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Autumn ...

... brings this wonderful sight at Blackfriars which lasts, alas, just for a short time.


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Monday, November 01, 2010

Institution of Acolyte

During the Conventual Mass at Oxford on  Wednesday 27th of October, fr Nicholas Crowe OP was instituted as an acolyte by the Prior Provincial, fr John Farrell OP.

The acolyte has things to do at the liturgy, assisting the priest and deacon: "it is his duty therefore to attend to the service of the altar and to assist the deacon and the priest in liturgical celebrations, especially in the celebration of Mass". He needs to ensure that everything has been properly prepared, helps the deacon to prepare the altar for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. and may assist in the distribution of Holy Communion  when there are not enough priests and deacons.

The acolyte also has things to do in the community and all of them flow from his service of the Eucharist. So he may take communion to the sick and housebound,  he is an appropriate person to  prepare altar servers and others who assist in the liturgies,  not just showing them what to do but helping them to understand the significance of what they are doing. He may also, in the absence of a priest or deacon, expose the Blessed Sacrament for adoration.

The Church encourages acolytes to deepen their devotion to the Eucharist and to acquire an ever more profound understanding of it. The acolyte is to be 'in the temple an example to all by his serious and respectful comportment'. His service of the sacramental Body and Blood of Christ ought to stimulate in him 'a sincere love for the mystical body of Christ, or the people of God, especially the weak and the sick'.

For clerical brothers of religious institutes, as for seminarians, being instituted as an acolyte is a step towards ordination (God willing). It enables them to take a more active role in the sacramental and pastoral service of the community.


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